13. RC Mark McNeill – Prince Albert (WHL)
DOB: Feb. 22/93 | Shoots: R | Height: 6.02 | Weight: 210lbs
Midterm Rank: 19 | League Rank: 2nd WHL | Country Rank: 9th Canada
After putting up 32 goals and 81 points in 70 games with limited help this year, McNeill played well in a first round play-off loss to Saskatoon before suiting up for Canada at the Under-18 World Championships where he put up another 6 points in seven games. As a big, physical, right-handed center that is coming off of a very strong year, McNeill will deservedly command a lot of attention on the draft floor this year.
McNeil is known for his versatility and on both Prince Albert and Team Canada, McNeill was used in key situations. He was used to kill penalties, score goals, to take late-game face-offs, and to play against the best players on the opposing teams. McNeill is a plus skater for his size as witnessed by his performance at the CHL Top Prospects game. That skating ability combined with his solid strength and size make him hard to contain when he is driving to the net or shielding the puck with his body along the wall.
He plays a hard-working style where he gets results through effort and physical ability, using his size to his advantage. He overpowers opponents in the corners and is able to create space to make a play with the puck. One drawback is that for all his size and strength, McNeil is susceptible to losing track of the location of the puck during puck scrambles resulting in him losing battles that he should win based on him having better positioning or strength than his opponent.
While McNeill is primarily a talented grinder, he seems to be able to morph his game into whatever style is needed for a particular situation. While he is most often a physical player that likes to bang and crash, he can also play the role of skilled, finesse player when needed. McNeill is an under-rated passer (especially down low) and he has a quick hard wrist shot that he uses well. While McNeill may never be the flashiest player, he does have decent offensive capability.
In addition to his size and skill, McNeill holds intangibles that will make him coveted for more than just the statistics that he accumulates. He is hard to play against, he plays a versatile style, he works hard and leads by example. While he doesn’t often fight, he is more than capable of holding his own when he does decide to drop the gloves.
Drawbacks with his game are that his defensive game still needs some work and his offensive upside isn’t as high as some other highly valued prospects. Defensively, like many young players, McNeill needs to improve his awareness and positioning, especially if he is expecting to play key defensive minutes in the pro ranks. Offensively, McNeil lacks the offensive upside needed to be an elite scorer and which will prevent him from being a top 10 pick in this year’s draft.
All in all, McNeill has the size and versatility needed to play up and down the lineup making it easy on coaches to play him in different situations. He should be a safe pick to go in the middle of the 1st round and I suspect that whoever ends up getting him on draft day will be pretty happy with what they are getting.
Pros: Speed, Size, Strength, work ethic
Cons: Offensive upside, defensive consistency
Skill-set comparison: cross between Brooks Laich and Shawn Horcoff